English 491h

Dr. Morillo

The English Philosophical Poem: Neoclassicism to Romanticism

T 103, 515-4163

Course Description

Between 1680 and 1820 some of the finest examples of English verse by Dryden, Pope, Wordsworth, Shelley and others together constitute a challenge to traditional boundaries between the Neoclassical and Romantic literary periods, and between the disciplines of literature and philosophy. Throughout this period poets felt authorized and often compelled to combine metaphysical, ethical, and epistemological issues into a form known as the philosophical poem.

By reading a range of better and lesser known works from this period, the class will focus on the characteristics of this form of poetry and whether the philosophical poem constitutes a genre. We will consider what the philosophical poem's formal verse features were , what cultural circumstances made this kind of poem possible, how and why it changed, and what happened to it.


Required Texts:

Akenside, Mark. The Pleasures of Imagination: A Poem, in Three Books (1744) To be xeroxed from my copy.

Brooke, Henry. Universal Beauty: A Philosophical Poem (1735). To be xeroxed from my copy.

Dryden, John, trans. Lucretius: The beginning of the First Book; The beginning of the Second Book; Latter Part of the Third Book; The Fourth Book; Book the Fifth (1685). To be xeroxed from my copy.

Lucretius, Titus Carus. The Nature of Things (c. 60 B.C.). Trans. Frank Copley. Norton ed.

Pope, Alexander. An Essay on Man (1733-4). Dover ed. In NCSU bookstore.

Santayana, George. "Lucretius." To be xeroxed from my copy.

Shelley, Percy. Mont Blanc (1817) and Prometheus Unbound (1820), in Shelley's Poetry and Prose. Eds. Donald Reiman and Sharon Powers. Norton ed.

Wordsworth, William. The Prelude: 1798, 1805, 1850. Ed. Jonathan Wordsworth et al. Norton ed.

Secondary, Reserve List: Hill Reserve Room

Akenside, Mark. The Poetical Works of Mark Akenside.

Brooke, Henry. The Fool of Quality (Library of Early Novelists, vol. 7).

Chandler, James. Wordsworth's Second Nature.

Dryden, John. Poetical Works, vol. 3. Translations from Lucretius.

Ferguson, Frances. Wordsworth: Language as Counter-Spirit.

Hammond, Brean. Pope.

Heidegger, Martin. Poetry, Language and Thought.

Kroll, Richard. The Material Word.

Lucretius, Titus. On the Nature of Things (new 1995 trans.)

Nussbaum, Martha. Love's Knowledge.

Pope, Alexander. An Essay on Man (Twickenham ed.)

Reed, Arden. Romanticism and Language.

Santayana, George. Interpretations of Poetry and Religion.

Research Paper 10-12 pp. double-spaced type

Since this class asks you to consider the philosophical poem as a genre, you will write a final paper supporting or critiquing that notion by tracking significant similarities across period boundaries and defining and emphasizing critical differences between works and authors. You will turn in a preliminary draft of this paper and present your idea for it orally to the class. You will need to gather particular details that will allow you to begin drawing a map of features or family resemblances characteristic of this kind of poem. Many kinds of paper topics are possible and can accommodate a range of interests. For example, as Dryden brings Lucretius into the late seventeenth century, what does he emphasize and what does he minimize, and why? How dependent is Wordsworth's Prelude on Akenside's Pleasures of Imagination? Does Shelley transform the philosophical poem into a politically radical art form, or are philosophical poems before Shelley already radical or revisionary? While all papers will require some outside reading, many will depend primarily on concentrated, detailed attention to the poems themselves.

This final paper will be worth 50% of your grade. The remaining 50% will be calculated as follows: 20% midterm in which you will be given a poem you haven't seen, read it outside of class, and write about it in class; class participation 10%--this means coming prepared to class on time, with the required texts, having read and thought about the literature, and being ready to talk about it; 10% oral presentation of paper proposal; 10% short writing assignments and quizzes.

--Papers one class late penalized by a grade. No papers accepted after 1 class late.

Attendance: after 3 unexcused your participation grade will suffer progressively. If you know you'll have to miss a class be sure to call me at 5-4163 before that class.

Tentative Syllabus

Th 8/24 Introduction. Excerpts from Philosophers on Poetry. (in-class xerox handout)

T 8/29 Lucretius as Neoclassical model. The Nature of Things, Introduction & Book 1.

Th 8/31 Lucretius, The Nature of Things, Bks. 2-3

T 9/5 Lucretius, The Nature of Things, Bks. 4-6.

Th 9/7 Santayana, "Lucretius"

T 9/12 Dryden, translations of Lucretius.

Th 9/14 Pope, An Essay on Man. Bks. 1-2.

T 9/19 Pope, An Essay on Man. Bk 3.

Th 9/21 Pope, An Essay on Man. Bk. 4.

T 9/26 Brooke, Universal Beauty.

Th 9/28 Akenside, Pleasures of Imagination. Bks. 1-2.

T. 10/3 Akenside, Pleasures of Imagination. Bks. 2-3

Th 10/5 Midterm

T 10/10 Wordsworth, Prelude Bks. 1-3.

Th 10/12 Wordsworth, Prelude Bks. 4-6

T 10/17 fall break

Th 10/19 Wordsworth, Prelude Bks. 7-10

T 10/24 Wordsworth, Prelude Bks. 11-13

Th 10/26 oral presentation of paper proposals

T 10/31 oral presentation of paper proposals

Th 11/2 oral presentation of paper proposals

T 11/7 Shelley, Mont Blanc

Th 11/9 Shelley, Prometheus Unbound, Act. 1

T 11/14 Shelley, Prometheus Unbound, Act 2

Th 11/16 Shelley, Prometheus Unbound, Act 3

T 11/21 Shelley, Prometheus Unbound, Act 4

Th 11/23 Thanksgiving break

T 11/28 Pope and Dryden

Th 11/30 Wordsworth and Akenside. Paper Draft Due.

T 12/5 Wordsworth and Shelley

Th 12/8 Conclusion.

Final Paper Due Tuesday, December 12, noon at my office.